Official: Ferrari Releases Details, Photos, and Video of 2012 458 Spider

Ferrari reveals the 458 Italia Spider just weeks before its live unveiling at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.

With just three weeks to go before the Frankfurt Auto Show, Ferrari has just released details and photos of the new 2012 458 Italia Spider. Perhaps the biggest news is the fact that it won't be a fabric roof, but a retractable aluminum hardtop. Powered by the same 4.5-liter V8 with 562hp and 395 lb-ft of torque as the coupe, this latest supercar is all set to compete directly with the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.

Described by Ferrari as the first mid-rear-engine supercar to feature a retractable roof, the 458 Spider goes beyond the traditional fabric roof used by many previous Ferraris throughout the years. This roof is made from aluminum and is actually a patented design that can automatically retract back into the stowage area behind the seats, just in front of the engine bay in a scant time of 14 seconds. It also weighs less than the fabric roof of its F430 Spider predecessor. Therefore, the 458 Spider is able to retain the same 42:58 front-to-rear weight distribution as the 458 coupe.

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Ferrari also claims the new aluminum hardtop has been engineered to fit in front of the engine bay without compromising aerodynamics or performance. With the added assistance of the domes behind the seatbacks, they're able to help channel wind over the rear bodywork to air intakes used to cool the engine, clutch, and gearbox. Amazingly, only a small space is required to house the hardtop, leaving room for what Ferrari describes as a "generous rear bench for luggage" just behind the seats. Ferrari has also added an electronically operated wind stop to reduce buffeting in the interior at speed.

This allows for a normal conversation to take place while going up to 124 mph. Other changes include modifications to the exhaust in order to have a slightly different exhaust note than its coupe counterpart. Like the coupe, the direct-injection V8 is mated to Ferrari's seven-speed double-clutch F1 gearbox along the F1 Trac traction control system, an e-diff electronically operated differential, and a high-performance brake system. Weighing some 110 lbs. more than the coupe, Ferrari modified the convertible's chassis in order to offset the loss of rigidity due to not having a fixed roof.

As a result, the Spider goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds - only 0.1 second slower than the coupe, with a top speed of 198 mph. For comparison, the coupe's top speed is 203 mph. The 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider will be making its official debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show next month.

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